I had a conversation with someone recently who was anxious about an important forthcoming meeting. As we often do, he had expectations and hopes. He was very invested in the outcome and potential significance of the meeting. He was concerned things wouldn’t go as he wanted them to.
He was afraid of disappointment. He worried about how he would be perceived by the other person. He felt the meeting could affect his future and not knowing which way the meeting would lead, he played out different scenarios in his head. The meeting was with someone he didn’t know. All he knew was that he didn’t know what would happen. And so he was anxious because there were more unknowns than knowns.
There was no way of predicting the future; that meeting or its outcome.
I asked him what would make him less anxious.
With great insight he finally replied “I’ll be fine if I can get out of the way”.
If we get in our own way, we project all sorts of things into a situation that aren’t actually there. We can in effect create the negative image we have constructed. In our attempt and desire to make what we want happen, through volition and ego, we distress the situation. Have you ever been in the situation where you worried so much about something going wrong your worry actually made the situation go wrong? I know I have, and in retrospect realised that if I’d let things unfold – simply had trust – they would have gone better. My anxiety and I got in the way of the process and filled the space.
In effect, we materialise our own worse case scenario by getting in the way, stepping right into the centre of the picture and making it all about us. Bringing too much with us, based on what we don’t know, because we want to know in advance. We want to predict and control the uncertain future.
To get out of our own way is to have trust. To have trust, we need to let go of the way we want things to go and allow them to happen, rather than feel we need to make them happen our way. In other words make allowances; treat leniently or lightly. To get out of our own head, away from our own story. To step back.
To step back enables opportunity and prevents us attempting to force a situation. It creates space. The more we think we know, the more likely we are to try and step into a situation. The more we recognise what we don’t know, the more likely we are to get out of our own way. Andy Puddicombe in the Headspace mindfulness meditations talks about the place of quiet confidence underneath out thoughts, which relates to the blue sky behind the clouds. In other words our natural order; uncrowded and uncluttered by our own undoings, mental fabrications and worries about what might be.
Wait and see. See what unfolds.
If we could predict the future there would be no anticipation and wonder. If we know everything, there would be no unknown. If we knew things were going to happen the way we wanted we would probably feel less invested.
So, next time you are anxious about something you don’t know, celebrate that position. It’s full of potential. If it doesn’t go the way you want or planned, let it. Show up as you are, open to possibility and opportunity and you are more likely to find it because you’ve allowed it.
Trust the process. It’s not about you.